Good News of Great Joy

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

When Luke was written, “gospel” or “good news” was not a religious word. It was a political word. That is, “gospel” or “good news” usually referred to some great news about the emperor, the empire, or victory. It was the word used to describe the birth of the coming emperor or the ascension of a new emperor or the victory of the emperor over Rome’s enemies. When the angels used this word to describe the birth of Jesus, it was a powerful word for those Jewish shepherds. The anointed King of Israel, the descendant of David was born. He would be both Lord and Savior of the Jews. Rome would not be able to withstand this King. It was very much a challenge to the politics of the day. It was good news of great joy because finally the real King had been born, and victory over all enemies was coming. What good news of great joy this still is today. Our King was born. He lived. He conquered. He reigns. Follow Jesus today. He is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the King. He is the Emperor. He is the only way to victory over and salvation from every enemy, including sin and death. And that is good news of great joy.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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No Room for Jesus

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

Almost everything I grew up picturing about Jesus’s birth was wrong. Does this sound familiar to you? Because there was a census, Joseph takes his pregnant wife Mary on a solitary journey into their ancestral home arriving late in the evening. The local inn is already full, so they hole up in a nearby stable. Perhaps because of the trip or the stress or maybe just because it was time, Mary goes into labor that night. Almost none of that is how it would have happened. First, folks in that day rarely traveled alone for fear of bandits. Joseph and Mary would have been in a caravan of family making the exact same trip. The word translated “inn” doesn’t refer to a motel (this is not the same word as found in Luke 10:34-35 but rather in Luke 22:11 where it is translated “guest room”). Joseph and Mary were going to their ancestral home. They would have had all kinds of family there. In that culture, they wouldn’t be staying in a hotel, but with family. Mary didn’t go into labor the night they arrived. This wasn’t a day trip. This trip wasn’t “there and back again.” Considering the visit of the wise men in Matthew 2, it seems they essentially moved to Bethlehem. The text says, “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” They had been there for a time and she gave birth. This makes the issue of no room all the more poignant. This wasn’t an issue of getting to the hotel too late and there is a “no vacancy” sign. Rather, this is the picture of families opening their homes to one another, but when the baby comes, there is no room for that among all the guests staying in the guest room. If you are going to have a messy, screaming mother giving birth to a messy, crying baby, don’t do that in the guest room where the rest of the family is wanting to sleep and live. Put them out in the stable where they won’t bother anyone. It never really gets any better for Jesus. When we get to Luke 9:58, we will read Jesus saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The fact is from His birth to His death, folks saw Jesus as an inconvenience. There was no room for Him. This leads to a question for us. Do we have room for Jesus? Are we willing to welcome Him in to our home, our heart, our lives, letting Him take up residence no matter how messy and inconvenient it becomes? Or will we send Him out to the stables? Do you have room for Jesus today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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The Battle Begins

Today’s reading is Matthew 2.

You’d think Satan might wait until Jesus had a chance to grow up a little before starting his all out assault. But no. The dragon takes on the woman and her child in His infancy. Herod is the adversary’s instrument who slaughters a city full of children in this first attack. However, Jesus escaped. Please understand, our enemy is ruthless. He doesn’t care who gets hurt or killed in the fight. He will do whatever it takes to conquer the offspring of the woman (yes, I’m mixing this with the imagery of Revelation 12). He will do whatever it takes to conquer you. However, God is on your side. God will win; God does win. Even if we are killed in the battle, we will still have the victory in Jesus because He not only survived this beginning battle, He won the war. No matter how Satan attacks, hang on to Jesus. That is the only place of victory.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 3.

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A Crazy Beginning

Today’s reading is Matthew 1.

I’m going to say something shocking. I hope it is not offensive. But I have to say it. Sometimes, when I read the beginning of Matthew, I think, “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” Honestly, for a moment, the whole thing sounds made up. A betrothed woman ends up pregnant before the wedding, and her groom-to-be’s defense is he had a dream claiming the baby is actually God’s and will save the people from sin? These are delusions of grandeur not holy, inspired writ. And yet, it is just that craziness that grabs hold of me. Because, either someone did just make this up, or it happened just the way it is written. I have to consider: if I were going to make up a religion that I wanted to convince people to follow, centered around a singular Man who is supposed to inspire confidence, spirituality, morality, holiness, is this the story I would make up? I mean, sure, I get it, now that we have been impacted by this story for 2000 years, it seems almost natural to us. But get behind that. Get to the beginning of it. Would I start with a poor, nobody of a family, morally suspect parents, who are willing to side-step the Law, and a “dreamed up” defense? Would anyone? Keep in mind that this whole story, as odd as it sounds to us, is also blasphemy for the Jewish audience Matthew is trying to convince. This just isn’t the story someone makes up as an apologetic for a start-up religion. It is the kind of thing people say because they have to, because it is just what happened. Sometimes cliches become cliches because they are so often true they have to be so often repeated. Truth is stranger than fiction. And that first thought of “What a crazy beginning” gives way to “Wow! What an amazing beginning. Look at the risk God took to save me. Praise the Lord!”

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 2.

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